OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nate Ackenhausen pitched six innings in his first start for LSU and combined with Riley Cooper for the Tigers’ nation-leading 11th shutout of the season in a 5-0 victory over Tennessee in the College World Series on Tuesday night.
LSU (50-16) beat its Southeastern Conference rival for the fourth time in five meetings and will play No. 1 national seed Wake Forest on Wednesday night. The Tigers would have to beat the Demon Deacons in that game and again Thursday to reach the CWS finals.
Tennessee (44-22) was eliminated after it failed to score for the first time in 133 games since a 6-0 loss to Virginia in the 2021 CWS.
Ackenhausen came into the game having logged just 22 1/3 innings over 15 relief appearances. He had not gone more than 3 2/3 innings since he was a starter for Eastern Oklahoma State last year.
LSU’s third starter has been fluid most of the season, and coach Jay Johnson told ESPN before the game that he played a hunch and went with Ackenhausen over Riley Cooper because the Tigers were 13-2 in games in which he appeared.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound left-hander ended up outdueling Drew Beam, a projected high pick in the 2024 draft who was coming off strong starts in regionals and super regionals.
More important, Ackenhausen’s extended outing allowed Johnson to keep his bullpen fresh for Wake Forest.
The Tigers scored single runs in the first and sixth innings and another in the eighth when Tennessee relievers hit three batters and Tre’ Morgan came home on a wild pitch. Dylan Crews’ two-run homer in the ninth put the game away.
Beam, who left with two outs in the sixth, allowed six hits, walked two and struck out nine.
Ackenhausen had allowed four hits, walked none and struck out seven when he left to a standing ovation from fans behind the LSU dugout after he hit Blake Burke to start the seventh. Burke was the third batter he plunked, and pitchers for both teams combined for seven hit batters, the third most in a CWS game.
The Tigers had some anxious moments. After Cooper came on with a two-run lead, the Vols loaded the bases with two outs before Hunter Ensley dribbled out to first.
In the fifth, with LSU leading 1-0 and Cal Stark on second, Ahuna doubled into the left-center gap with two outs. The Tigers caught a break when third-base coach Josh Elander held up Stark, the catcher, instead of sending him home. Thompson, the relay man, would have had a long throw to the plate and it probably would have had to be perfect to get Stark. The Vols came up empty when Ensley flied out.
Ackenhausen went back out for the sixth and set down the Vols in order. He struck out their top hitter, Jared Dickey, and froze Christian Moore with a pitch up in the zone to end the inning.
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